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Ski with a Ranger tours teach about history and culture of Forest Service land

Take a tour for free at any of Summit County’s ski areas

A volunteer ranger with Friends of the Dillon Ranger District leads a Ski with a Ranger tour at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in 2019. The program is free to anyone with a lift ticket and teaches participants about a variety of topics focused on the nature, culture and history of the ski resorts on U.S. Forest Service land.
Emily Bruyn/Friends of the Dillon Ranger District

During ski season, Friends of the Dillon Ranger District continues to educate the community with hourlong Ski with a Ranger tours at various local ski resorts.

Every weekend, volunteer rangers take folks on free, educational tours where they can learn more about the natural and cultural history of the White River National Forest.

“It’s basically just an opportunity to have people slow down and appreciate the environment in which they’re skiing,” said Doozie Martin, program manager for Friends of the Dillon Ranger District. “We have a tendency to kind of keep our head down and look for our lines, but it’s a supremely beautiful place that we live in and are able to recreate.”



In addition to all of Summit County’s ski areas, Martin said the nonprofit has also started the program at Ski Cooper in Leadville. He said they ask that folks have intermediate skiing or snowboarding abilities, since the tours typically follow blue runs, and that participants have a lift ticket at whichever resort they plan to attend the tour.

Discussion topics are always focused on the forests and the ski industry and can include things like wildlife, trees, geology, geography, history, snow science, adaptability and more. Martin said there are designated spots for discussion at each resort, so the tour is different depending on which resort someone goes to.



The tour also changes based on the group of attendees, according to longtime tour guide Barry Skolnick. While the information is always centered around nature, he said he likes to make sure people learn about what they are most interested in.

“We also find out from our guests what they want to hear about,” Skolnick said. “We know a lot about the forest, and we know a lot about skiing, but we’d love to talk to you about whatever you want to learn about.”

Friends of the Dillon Ranger District volunteer Barry Skolnick leads a Ski with a Ranger tour at Breckenridge Ski Resort in 2019. The program is free to anyone with a lift ticket and teaches participants about a variety of topics focused on nature, culture and history of the ski resorts and the U.S. Forest Service.
Emily Bruyn/Friends of the Dillon Ranger District

Skolnick has been leading ski tours at Breckenridge Ski Resort with Friends of the Dillon Ranger District since 2015, and he said the program is truly a collaboration with the nonprofit, the U.S. Forest Service and all of the participating ski resorts. Each participating resort has a set number of designated volunteer rangers who lead the weekly tours at their respective ski areas.

If you go

• Arapahoe Basin Ski Area: 10:30 a.m. Fridays at the top of Black Mountain lift

• Breckenridge Ski Resort: 11 a.m. Fridays at the top of Independence SuperChair

• Copper Mountain Resort: 11 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays at the top of Timberline lift

• Keystone Resort: 11 a.m. Fridays at the Keytop Overlook

• Ski Cooper: 1 p.m. Sundays at Mountain Lodge

“I love the forest, and I love interacting with people,” Skolnick said. “The thrill I get out of being in the mountains — I like to be able to share that with other people, so they can have the same thrill that I get.”

Martin said a local resident who had lived in the area for more than 10 years told him he learned more about the area in the one-hour tour with a ranger than in his whole time living here. Skolnick said it’s an incredibly informative experience and that everyone who takes the tour learns something they didn’t know prior.

“It’s just an opportunity to kind of learn more about where we are and understand some of the issues that are going on in our community,” Martin said.

Preregistration isn’t required to participate in the program, so Martin said anyone who shows up before the tour leaves is welcome to join. The tours will continue through the end of March.


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